I have to go back?
How to Address Employee Concerns about Returning to Work
The thought of returning to the office can be overwhelming for many of your employees. Extroverts might be relishing in the fact that they once again can interact and communicate face-to-face. As humans we need social interaction and a sense of belonging and community. Introverts however might be curling up into a ball; beside themselves. How can you as an employer balance both of these expressions and attitudes?
Here are a few tips to help facilitate conversations with your team members and have them feeling comfortable about returning to work. Additionally, there are some pointers for employees to consider as they start to transition back to the office.
Focus on What Can Be Controlled
Let your team(s) know what steps have been taken for their safety and health. Walk them through cleaning and hygiene guidance, the proper use of PPE and maintaining social distancing. Embrace and acknowledge resistance to returning but balance that with an open-mind and a listening ear. Encourage open communication and focus on the positive aspects of serving others.
Control what you can and let go of the rest. We are our own worst enemies. If we allow negative thoughts to dwell, they will rob us of peace, joy and happiness. The expectations and limitations that reside in our brains drain us of our time and energy. LET IT GO! Focus on what you can control. Reenergize your attitude and spirit and embrace the opportunities for personal and professional growth.
Provide an environment focused on giving and receiving feedback. Touch base with your team members and get a sense of what they are feeling, experiencing, etc. Be open and honest about your own concerns or inspirations. Reassure your team that there is assistance available to all of them, either through an employee assistance program, local mental health counseling services, having team conversations, etc. Provide a culture where people feel trusted to speak their truth, so that everyone can learn and grow together.
Speak to your boss and colleagues about your frustrations and concerns. It has been a tough year for everyone. Voice your concerns and anxieties. An environment with a healthy culture will be open to discussing and moving forward with guidance, solutions, recommendations and action. Seek out advice or counseling if you need an outside resource. Be open and honest.
Take a pulse of your team. As mentioned before, check-in and see how everyone is doing. Remind them of how far we have all come and how resilient we have all been. It truly does take the effort of everyone to make day-to-day operations continue as smoothly as possible.
Check in with your policies and procedures. Is it really time to return to the office? Is remote work still possible? Flex scheduling to limit those in office at one time. Do we need to open our doors to customers? Can we deliver? What contactless pay methods can we offer? Get creative! Be cognizant of what changes are impacting your team(s) and your customers. Ask for feedback and be open to hear it!
If you are struggling with returning, think though your own emotions, thoughts and behavior. What comes to mind when you start to think about returning to work? Identify these thoughts, reflect on them and spend some time journaling. What is your mind telling you? Is it true or untrue? Which part of going back to work feels the most difficult? Why? Remember, you control your own situation, don’t waste your time and energy on anything else.
This advice rings true for everyone in an organization. Remember to take care of yourself! What do you need, right in the moment? Are you feeling overwhelmed? Do you need to take a 10-minute break? A moment to meditate. Practice some breathing exercises? We are all human and need to understand and recognize our own limitations. This is not a fault. We are not energizing bunnies. We need to recharge our batteries from time to time and pay attention to the signs that tell us when a timeout is necessary.
On a side note, this is also a great opportunity for team building. Does your team need a mental health day? Do they need a spa day? Perhaps a day filled with fun and games? Remember to take time to celebrate how far we have all come and recognize the challenges that have been placed in front of us over the last year. Take time to celebrate our flexibility and agility to change direction and roll with the punches.
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Thanks for reading!
Employment Laws for Small Businesses
Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
Your business is subject to the FLSA is you, a) take in $500,000 or more in total annual sales, or b) conduct business in interstate commerce.
The FLSA imposes several requirements on employers.
Oregon (standard/Wasco Co.): $12.00/hour increase to $12.75/hour on July 1, 2021
Washington (standard): $13.69/hour
*Overtime work exemptions do apply.
Federal: United States Department of Labor - website: https://www.dol.gov/
State: Bureau of Labor and Industry (BOLI)
National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)
Gives employees the right to unionize. Prohibits employers from unfairly influencing their workers’ decision to join or form a union.
National Labor Relations Board - website: https://www.nlrb.gov/
Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA)
Requires employers to verifying that their employees are legally authorized to work in the United States. Also prohibits discrimination based on citizenship status and national origin. Verification is conducted by completing a Form I-9 and examining documents that establish a worker’s identity. For example, passports, permanent resident cards, driver’s licenses and social security cards. The I-9 must be completed within three days of hiring an employee.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
Occupational Health and Safety Act
Requires employers to keep their workplaces safe and free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious harm. Employers must: report accidents resulting in death or hospitalization of employees, post information in the workplace informing employees of their rights under OSH Act and keep records of their efforts to comply with the law.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
Oregon OSHA - website: https://osha.oregon.gov/Pages/index.aspx
Equal Pay Act
Protects both men and women from wage discrimination. Certain bona fide factors exist that allow an employer to pay workers at a higher rate that workers of the opposite sex. For example, seniority, merit, quantity or quality of production, etc.
Federal: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
State: Bureau of Labor and Industry (BOLI)
Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
Limits the ways employers can use credit reports and other background reports for job applicants or current employees.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau - website: https://www.consumerfinance.gov/
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